Austin's Marshalling Yard homeless shelter, a 300-bed facility opened last year to boost the strained capacity of the city's shelter system, will be shutting down in early 2025.

The overview

City Council voted April 18 to extend the shelter's operations an additional eight months beyond an original closure date in July, and implement a "ramp down plan" to help move clients into stable housing as they leave. The Marshalling Yard will now close in March 2025, and council will receive regular updates on the ramp down process until then.

The $500,000 extension was funded through Austin's federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars reserved for emergency shelter and crisis services.

The shelter will continue to be managed by Endeavors, the organization that's overseen the facility since last year. Austin opened the shelter last year through a $9.14 million contract with Endeavors, of which $3.66 million has been spent so far.

Several hundred clients have been served at the Marshalling Yard with most staying for an average of just under four months. As of mid-April, 78 clients had moved out into housing and 36 returned to homelessness, while 270 left to an unknown destination. Capacity has stayed at or near the 300-bed limit through 2024.

The specifics

The funding total approved by council is half of what city homeless strategy officials initially said would be needed to maintain the space and its services for hundreds of clients over the coming months.

Staff had proposed a $1 million extension to keep the shelter in place given the estimated gap of more than 600 beds in the city, and as various other investments such as permanent supportive housing projects and rental assistance programs are still coming together.

Homeless Strategy Officer David Gray said that, if the "critical" Marshalling Yard were to be closed early, current clients likely wouldn't receive in-depth housing support as they exited while Austin would have to halt intake across all of its shelters.

A motion from council member Ryan Alter reduced the original $1 million funding request down to $500,000 and laid out guidelines for the upcoming ramp-down. Gray said staff supported the "compromise" to keep the shelter up and running into next year.

What they're saying

Alter credited the city and Endeavors for improved offerings at the Marshalling Yard since its launch, and said he wanted to strike a balance between boosting positive outcomes at the shelter while supporting the city's other work on homelessness.

“I think this is the right move for right now. It allows us to preserve a piece of our very precious ARPA dollars and figure out what use those dollars might have," he said.

Several council members shared similar sentiments on the need to keep shelter options open while still investing in other facilities and programs. Council member Chito Vela also said the Marshalling Yard ended up as Austin's most cost-effective homeless shelter per person, and that he doesn't want to see any clients forced out until replacement spaces are available.

“I’m well aware of the balance that we have to strike between money that goes to emergency shelters not going to long-term shelter," he said. "But we alleviate a lot of very bad things when we have a congregate shelter where people are getting fed, where people are able to get health care and some case management, and air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter."

Ahead of council's vote, several activists urged city officials to make sure that firm housing plans for Marshalling Yard clients, and others, are rolled out so that they don't exit back into homelessness without support.

“We need real permanent plans for housing, not just temporary solutions that can possibly put people back on the street," said JJ Ramirez, an organizer with local advocacy group VOCAL-TX. "Peoples’ stories have to be on the front burner. It cannot be a secondary thought that we wait until the very last minute to then contemplate whether we should extend an already very temporary, very expensive program.”